The Newcastle Knights' cohort of former Roosters have come away from their former home fortress empty handed, going down to Trent Robinson's new-look Sydney Roosters 38-8 at Allianz Stadium on Sunday night.
Cooper Cronk won the points battle against the man he replaced in the red, white and blue No.7 in Mitchell Pearce but it was Luke Keary – who has partnered both players in consecutive seasons – who truly lit up the match with some magic touches.
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Pearce had a fair game under the circumstances and set up his team's only try – scored by fellow ex-Rooster Aidan Guerra – but could do little to stop an avalanche of points against his side, who have now suffered their first loss of the season. He also copped a fair razzing from his former home crowd when he produced a cold drop late in the loss.
Cronk and Keary, on the other hand, were simply superb, scoring a try apiece and setting up the rest of the team's seven tries.
Of the other ex-Roosters in the Knights team, winger Shaun Kenny-Dowall narrowly failed to score what would have then been an important try early in the second half as his foot scraped the touch-line while it was a sorry night for Connor Watson, who left the field midway through the first half after dislocating his shoulder and could miss up to 12 weeks if he faces shoulder surgery.
Match: Roosters v Knights
Round 3 -
Venue: Allianz Stadium
- Fox League
- LIVE PASS
In-form Knights fullback Kalyn Ponga failed to open the scoring with a wobbly penalty goal attempt in the fourth minute before Mitchell's seventh-minute try came courtesy of a lovely Cronk switch-back to Keary who provided the perfect short ball to the powerful centre.
The heavens opened not long after and the middle 20 minutes of the half consequently saw plenty of handling errors.
Ponga made it second-time lucky off the tee to eke back two points of the Roosters' lead in the 22nd minute but the Roosters – having absorbed plenty of pressure at their line – broke further away when a Cronk bomb was batted back by Boyd Cordner to a gleeful Jared Waerea-Hargreaves just on the half-hour mark.
A beautiful and deceptive Pearce grubber early in the tackle count was pounced on by Guerra to haul it back to 12-8 before a potent Roosters double-strike late in the half blew the game wide open.
Herman Ese'ese's drop in the set after points set the scene for Keary's brilliant angled run over the top of Brock Lamb in the 35th minute. Then the five-eighth produced a perfectly-timed run off a cheeky Cronk midfield chip, got the perfect bounce, sized up the remaining defenders and drew the fullback before finding a perfect no-look flick pass to a stunned Victor Radley who raced away for his maiden NRL try and a 24-8 half-time lead.
The Knights dominated the opening 10 minutes of the second half, finishing with a set that saw Lachlan Fitzgibbon held up then Kenny-Dowall's no try in the corner, and that was as good as it got for the visitors.
Some lovely Cronk work after picking up a loose ball put Joseph Manu in space and Blake Ferguson was in position to finish off a 95-metre team try.
Just five minutes later Cronk got himself on the board, diving on his own grubber after it deflected off a Knights player into the Newcastle in-goal.
Cronk's boot created yet another try 15 minutes from time when he popped a perfect wide chip onto the chest of Ferguson, who touched down for his second in what was the final try of a commanding a 38-8 win.